Time outdoors is an integral part of a happy childhood. How many wonderful childhood memories are forged in woodlands, fields, beaches and parks? The magic of nature and the excitement of a busy town can’t be underestimated – both urban and rural settings offer amazing opportunities for children to learn and flourish.
No matter what their age, children tend to love the chance to see new places and to enjoy the freedom of exploration. I have teamed up with an independent school in Richmond whose ethos includes building on children’s natural curiosity and independence. Enjoying outdoor learning is a big part of developing those attributes.
Why is it healthier for children to spend time outdoors?
There’s a lot to be said for the exhilaration of fresh air and sunshine. Even so-called ‘bad weather’ such as wind, rain and snow can be exciting and children, like adults benefit from the naturally cheering effects which being in and around nature bring. Scientific evidence shows that walking regularly, especially among trees, can help with depression. It lifts the spirits and releases serotonin – the chemical responsible for happiness.
Children also need exercise of course. It’s important to give your child the opportunity to stretch their legs and to run around in open spaces – it builds muscle and burns fat.
Ideas for outdoor activities
Children of all ages love a simple nature walk. Looking in hedgerows to see what berries are growing, collecting pinecones, acorns and dry leaves are wonderful activities. You can help smaller children to build their own nature table at home. Finding exciting or unusual curios to add to their collection will become a favourite activity. Scavenger hunts are exciting too – give your child a list of things to find on their walk. Here are some ideas of things they can look out for depending on the time of year.
- Leaf skeletons
- New green leaves
- Winged seeds
- Different coloured leaves
- Different grasses
- A dandelion clock
- Holly leaves
- Lichen on a twig
- Evergreen leaves
Even if you live in the city, exploring outdoors is still exciting. Looking at the streetscapes around you can provide a wealth of interesting facts. Introduce your child to different types of architecture. Help them to learn how to date different buildings. Clues are often clearly visible such as date plaques above doors.
Help your child to study all of the interesting features to be found within our towns and cities.
Where are the main buildings in your town? Is there a town hall? What about a police station? Helping children to become familiar with their surroundings can help build their confidence and learn how to navigate successfully.